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What is Raw Edge Applique? – Dresden Plate Quilt – #6 – Quilt Reveal

 There is a lot of words thrown around by quilt makers that might leave an outsider or new quilter scratching their head.  The What Is Series is where I tackle those topics.

View all articles in the series here.

If you have something that you wanted covered, please let me know by contacting me here.




I feel like with this quilt I’ve hit my most dreamiest project to date.  I’m absolutely over the moon  and I’m incredibly sad to ship it off to Switzerland where it will make its home.

BUT I know it’s going to a home that loves quilts and I went ahead and googled pictures of Switzerland to see what it looked like and I’m quite pleased to see that it is such a beautiful country and I’m thinking Dresden #6 should fit in well there.  Ha!  I wish I was going with it!

I’m off on a tangent.  See things are dreamy and I need to try and focus!  I blame it on the quilt.

(But really, new Dresden Plate #6 owner, would you mind taking a picture of it in front of those beautiful Alps and sharing it with me?)


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I’ve already written two progress posts on this quilt here and here.

Last week I shared my tutorial for my latest applique obsession, Charlotte’s Fusible Web.  Every time I share my methods and love for raw edge applique I’m met with either resistance or a multitude of questions.  I thought I’d take the time to answer those today.



What is Raw Edge Applique?

Raw edge applique is an applique method when you have a fabric where it’s edges are exposed.  It’s not tucked under or hidden.  Instead it’s topstitched around the edges so they don’t fray.  This also holds the applique in its place.

My actual Dresden plates are not raw edge, but the center circles of them are.

Let me break it down even further for the new quilters…  You lay a fabric shape on top of another fabric and stitch around the edges.  THAT is raw edge applique.





Methods of Raw Edge Applique

Ok, so if you’ve ever sewn anything before, you know you can’t just lay a fabric onto another fabric and topstitch it down using a sewing machine.  It will move, it will fold, it will pucker, it will act all out of sorts and you end up with a big mess.

There are techniques and products that make this all a possibility.  Here are my favorite methods:

  • Charlotte’s Fusible Web – This is a fusible thread that basically turns to glue when you iron over it.  It’s magical.  The benefits of this method is that there is no stiffness or bulk in your applique.  The con would be it’s a bit more of a fussy way to get the job done.  Still it’s my favorite method.  Read my tutorial on this method / Buy Charlotte’s Fusible Web
  • Interfacing – The benefits of this method are that you make your fabric thicker and more durable.  The con would be that it adds a stiffness to your applique.  It’s a pretty popular method when it comes to raw edge applique.  Read my tutorial on this method / Buy interfacing
  • Heat n Bond Lite Fusible Adhesive – This is actually my second favorite method of raw edge applique and I believe it has its place.  The best thing about this method is that the fusible is double sided.  The benefits would be that I can fuse my fabric to create my applique and then fuse it also onto my background.  It is temporary, but has a pretty significant hold that I’ve tested to know that it can last months.  The cons would be that it also creates a hard stiffness on the applique.  Read my tutorial on this method / Buy Lite Fusible Adhesive





What is the Resistance?

I say resistance because I’ve come to know a lot of people that don’t like raw edge applique.  This is perfectly acceptable.  We all have our preferences.  The alternative of raw edge applique would be needle turn applique, something I consider to be the holy grail of applique itself.  It is simply beautiful.  Here’s a tutorial for it.  It leaves you without any raw edges.  All your pieces are turned under.  While lovely, it is time consuming.

I do practice it as well and prefer it to all other methods of applique, but I think there is a place for raw edge, particularly when I want to finish a quilt in a reasonable amount of time and I want to use my machine instead of my hands.

I think the majority of the resistance comes from the worry that your applique will fray and change your quilt from lovely to an eyesore.  I’ve not found that to be the case.  I have made a substantial amount of raw edge applique quilts (you know this for certain if you’ve followed me for a while) and have never had fraying that I found ugly.  See them all here.  I’ve also never had any significant fraying.

In fact, usually after the first wash, I never have any other fraying or threads to pick away.  It seems after putting the quilt in the dryer the quilt is looking how it’s going to look.


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My Tips

  • I tend to use the zig zag stitch more often than not, but any decorative stitch will do.
  • Play around with the width and length of your stitch.  On the zig zag, I usually widen my stitch quite a bit and shorten it as well.
  • Don’t use a color of thread that differs much from the actual applique.  There’s nothing that stands out quite like a light colored fabric applique with dark thread!  I try to match it or if I can’t go with a gray/silver since that color hides well.

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If you have thoughts on raw edge applique, I’d love to hear about them.  Please leave me a comment below.  🙂



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  1. We could see the Swiss Alps in the distance when we were in Germany and the colors of this quilt will look so good over there and the Dresdens look like snow flakes. Perfect and beautiful.

  2. Oh my, this quilt is SO beautiful! Makes me want to curl up under it with a good book. The recipients will surely be thrilled!

  3. Very informative! I especially liked the part about different products you’ve tried for raw edge appliqué. I’ve done quite a bit of raw edge too. One quilt I made for myself was my Bottled Rainbows quilt. It was washed about 6-8 times. About halfway through some of the appliquéd pieces started coming off. By the end of its life, it was needing quite a lot of repairs. I had sewn it with a wide zigzag stitch, using a very short stitch length so that the edges were completely covered. So… my experience has made me cautious of raw edge for things that are to be washed.

  4. Hi Melanie ! I just love your Dresden quilt. Reading through the post, I thought of one other method of applique that might be used for the center circles. It combines the efficiency of raw-edge with the permanence of a turned-under edge. The turned-under edge of the circles can be hand or machine sewn to the Dresden. It involves making the center circle faced with a lightweight fusible. Purl Soho has a good explanation of the method (with photos) here: https://www.purlsoho.com/create/2011/02/25/mini-quilt-of-the-month-february-liberty-of-london-tana-lawn/ I’ve used this method before and it works well. Hope you find it helpful

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